Obamalism gets a slap in the face
By Kelsey Stapler
God bless America and her angry town hall meetings. Not a moment too soon, Democrats must finally confront the reality of a 35% approval rating for their health care reform proposal.
Seven months ago, it didn’t seem possible. Obama swept the nation off her feet with bouquets of ambitious policies: save the trees, help the sick people, teach the children. Wasn’t there a “Feed the Puppies” initiative as well? Anyway, you remember. There were lots and lots of warm fuzzies.
Of course, those gift-wrapped plans morphed into mandates. Obama hit the panic button on health care. There’s a crisis in health care. A crisis, I tell you! It’s doubtful Rahm Emanuel could romance the country, but his philosophy of “never let a crisis go to waste” has become the theme of Obama’s recent love letters.
Let’s assume, as we should, that some version of the heath care reform act will eventually pass the Senate. How it passes could set the rest of Obama’s agenda. If they’ll listen, Republicans might also learn a thing or two.
The cold fact slapping Democrats in the face right now is that reform is gradual. It is incremental. Thanks to Madison, Hamilton, et al, it is really freaking difficult to enact broad changes in policy. Read the Federalist Papers – I think they actually say “really freaking difficult.” It should be no surprise, then, when the Democrats’ massive, expensive, socialist-leaning health care reform proposal requires a few tweaks prior to passage in Congress.
The left is so righteously indignant at the thought of compromise that they’ve completely forgotten it’s a fundamental part of the job. As if Congress hasn’t lived by compromise since the beginning? As if suddenly, radical national overhauls should be able to pass without resistance because Obama said please? *SLAP* Reform. Is. Gradual.
Or, at the very least, successful reform is gradual. But this situation begs the question: will Obama use the same tactic for his next projects? Watch carefully in the upcoming months for an “education crisis” to emerge. Or perhaps, a bigger and badder version of the “energy crisis.” Obama’s forte is making broad, bold, inspiring speeches focused on whatever next big problem appears on the horizon. Unfortunately for the left, Congress’s forte is hiding a million small adjustments to the system in the gristle of their legislative output. For healthcare, at least, the combination has not been pretty.
Frankly, abandoning the “let’s create a crisis” method could be a smart move for the Democrats right now. If they could just take a Xanax and lay off the drama for a little while, they might actually get a few things done.
For example, on the education front, Arne Duncan has already released his first major initiative: a $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” fund offering grants to state governments who achieve high test scores. Not a bad idea, even if on a relatively small scale. And the reason for such a smooth release? The idea was tucked into a small corner of the spending package passed by Congress in February. No impending doom necessary.
Even if Obama prefers the glamour of dire situations, he should realize Congress does not do well under pressure. At all. Like… ever. To get his sweeping agenda moving again, he’ll need to rely much less on congressional henchmen and much more on executive policy wonks.
Of course, therein lies the challenge — and opportunity — for Republicans. Even though some are taking a beating on healthcare, the overall set-up for the majority is pretty cushy. Lockstep emergency response tends to be much easier to justify to constituents. If the GOP can force the left into incrementalism, they might have a shot at a dance during midterms.
Regardless of Obama’s plans for the future, it’s clear that the honeymoon phase may just end with health care. Democrats should remember — re-election doesn’t qualify as a crisis.
Kelsey Stapler is a second year law student currently writing from the beach in Southern California. Her columns have also appeared in Patrol Magazine. E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.